Govt draws the line on shark, manta ray listing

The Department of Fisheries is unhappy with a proposal by the United States and South American nations to put sharks and manta rays on Cites's protection list to control international trade of the fish species.

  • Published: 6/03/2013 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Pol Maj Gen Kiattipong Khawsamang, commander of Surat Thani provincial police, receives the Clark R Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award 2013 from  John E Scanlon, right, secretary-general of Cites, at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center Tuesday. The award is given to law enforcement officers with outstanding records in fighting crime involving wildlife. PANUMAS SANGUANWONG

Bangkok is hosting the 16th conference of the parties to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) which will run until March 14.

The listing of three shark species and four manta ray species on Cites's Appendix II is one of crucial agenda items at the meeting and delegates will decide on matter on Friday.

According to Cites, Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled.

International trade in specimens of Appendix II species may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate.

Fisheries Department chief Wimol Jantrarotai said Tuesday his agency disagrees with the proposed listing as it could hurt local fishermen and the ornamental fish industry and fish breeding programmes.

He said Thailand enforces laws and regulations to preserve marine fish species such as banning fishing in a 4.5km area from the shore and imposing a three-month fishing ban during the breeding season.

The department's artificial reef projects, which were created in 435 sites in 22 provinces, had also increased the habitat for marine species, including sharks and sting rays.

Mr Wimol said the Cites parties had initially agreed that each member country must report on shark fishing.

"Shark fishing is not popular in Thailand. Sharks accounted for less than 0.5% of total fish caught in Thai waters," he said.

"Listing the sharks on the protection list could land our fishermen in trouble as they might unintentionally catch the fish and be punished."

The proposed listing of the manta rays, meanwhile, would affect the local ornamental fish breeding industry, which makes more than 800 million baht a year.

Thailand imports freshwater manta ray from South American countries for breeding and then exports the fish to Europe, Japan and the US, Mr Wimol said. He said listing the manta ray could pose difficulties in the import and export of the fish species.

Three of the four manta ray species proposed for listing were popular among Thai breeders, he added.

"We are seeking additional information about the listing of the sharks and manta ray from the countries that support the proposal.

"However, it is likely we will not support the listings as it could be bad for our fishing and ornamental fish industry," he said.

In another development, the Wildlife Conservation Society yesterday revealed a study on the African elephant population, saying the elephant population has fallen by 62% between 2002-2011. High human population density, poaching, and an absence of law enforcement are the main causes, the report said.

Experts estimate there are about 100,000 African elephants in the wild and that 80% of ivory products sold in worldwide markets are from African elephants killed in Kenya and Tanzania.

About 2,000 delegates from over 150 countries are attending the conference, along with representatives from non-governmental organisations and businesses.

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